A new policy that seeks to boost Uganda's coffee industry has been launched, with government earmarking at least Shs 24bn for planting some 100 million coffee seedlings every year until 2016.
Some of these figures are contained in the National Coffee Policy, which was launched in Mukono recently. Coffee remains one of the country's most important commercial agricultural commodities, contributing an annual average of about 20 per cent of Uganda's total export revenue over the last 10 years.
For almost a decade, funding for the promotion of coffee growing, championed by the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), had stagnated at Shs 1bn per year, a figure that coffee promoters view as too little.
The ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries recently launched the Coffee Policy that defines clear-cut interventions required for scaling up performance and development of the coffee sector.
"The formulation process of this policy was highly consultative, involving all key stakeholders in government, coffee industry and non-governmental institutions and a cross section of society. It will therefore be a solid foundation for review of supportive legal and regulatory frameworks that will create an enabling environment for guiding the coffee sub-sector," Tress Bucyanayandi, the minister for Agriculture, said during the launch.
Over the last 40 years, Uganda's coffee production has stagnated at three million bags per year with smallholder farmers dominating the sector, according to official government data. Different studies show that there is limited estate production, with low input use, resulting into low yields.
According to Kakuuto MP Mathias Kasamba, chairperson of the Parliamentary committee on Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, with increased enthusiasm to reactivate coffee plantations, government had expressed commitment to increase funding for the coffee sector.
Budgetary allocations were increased to Shs 24bn this financial year to meet the government pledge of providing at least 100 million coffee seedlings under the national coffee strategic intervention.
"Among the actions we want to undertake is to put down a strong institutional framework from the village to the national level. This will help us to know the number of coffee farmers and the coffee plants so as to establish an enterprise-based leadership structure," Kasamba said.
Government is set to adopt nine strategies, including the promotion of proper farming practices such as spacing, pruning and mulching at the farm level, as well as promoting coffee growing in new areas.
The government also intends to strengthen the coffee research system. This could be achieved through the establishment of a coffee research institute within the National Agricultural Research Organisation in line with the National Agricultural Research Systems Act.
In the policy, government intends to support mass multiplication and distribution of improved coffee planting materials.
"The existing system has one UCDA extension worker manning about eight districts. We are now looking at having at least an extension worker in every district," Kasamba says.